On June 20 1980, the Russian Orthodox priest Father Dmitri Dudko, who had been imprisoned that January as one of Russia's bravest dissidents, appeared on Soviet television and renounced his activities in a 20-minute interview, which was subsequently reported verbatim in nearly every Soviet newspaper. The KGB had clearly prepared the event as a decisive measure, not only against the "anti-Soviet" activities of Moscow proto-democrats, but also against any residual independence within the Russian Orthodox Church. One analyst detected 20 phrases in the confession likely to have been distributed by the KGB.
Dudko, who has died aged 82, once had an immense influence on the thousands of would-be neophytes who flocked to his sermons. These events had latterly taken on the form of conversations, in which Dudko answered questions from his crowded Moscow congregation, first in writing, and later in direct dialogue. Reconstructed from notes, circulated in samizdat, these sermons appeared in French in 1975, in English (as Our Hope) two years later, and in eight other languages.
Dudko was born into a peasant family in the village of Zarbuda, in the Bryansk region. He embraced Christianity after finding a copy of the Bible when all the churches in his region were closed. He lived under Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1943, when a few churches reopened. After liberation, he served in the Soviet army. He was arrested in 1948 for writing a poem criticising the destruction of Russia's holy places, and served eight-and-a-half years before being released under the post-Stalin amnesty. The KGB kept a careful watch on him from this time on.
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